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Originally published in: Ebner, M., Nagler, W. & Schön, M. (2014). Do You Mind NSA Affair?

Does the Global Surveillance
Disclosure Impact Our Students?. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and
Telecommunications 2014 (pp. 2307-2312). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Do You Mind NSA Affair?
Does the Global Surveillance Disclosure Impact Our Students?


Martin Ebner, Walther Nagler
Information Technology Services / Department of Social Learning
Graz University of Technology
Graz, Austria
{martin.ebner , walther.nagler}@tugraz.at

Martin Schön
Department of Life Long Learning
Graz University of Technology
Graz, Austria
martin.schoen@tugraz.at


Abstract: In summer 2013 the discussion about security and Internet peaked when the ex-NSA
man Edward Snowden uncovered secret details about his former employer NSA. Since then bad
news and stories about government surveillance have come along daily worldwide. But did they
change anything according to our way of working and living with the Internet? We wanted to
know, whether there is a change of Internet behavior to be determined among freshmen coming to
Graz University of Technology (TU Graz). On base of an annual questionnaire that is carried out
by the Department of Social Learning at TU Graz since 2007 we found out that although a quarter
of polled students are influenced by those disclosures there is no decrease in Internet usage to be
realized compared to former years results; quite the reverse: applications working on cloud-
principle like Dropbox are strongly upcoming. Apart from that, the long term survey generally
mirrors new media competences and Internet usage of TU Graz freshmen. This paper discusses
this year´s results and progressions of the survey. It targets the disclosure aspect under the special
focus of cloud-applications.


Introduction

Prof. Hermann Maurer stated once that the “revolution of the computers was not their evolution but their
crosslinking”. Nowadays the situation is even more sophisticated because since the beginning of the so-called Web
2.0 (O’Reilly, 2004) and therefore the raising of Social Networks we connect not only the devices but also the
humans behind them. In that way collaboration has become one of the big topics during the last years. Especially in
education collaboration is from high interest. Collaborative learning wants to assist teaching through a coordinated
and shared activity, by means of social interactions among the group members (Dillenbourg, 1999) (Vygotsky,
1978). From a technological perspective the assistance of collaboration can be done by providing online spaces for
groups (Murah, 2012). With other words, there is a place in the cloud where all members of a group have access and
can exchange their content for their learning activities, such as Dropbox and Google Drive. So on the one side our
learners are using more and more collaborative tools for their daily work and learning processes, on the other side
private and personal data is provided to services of companies. Bearing in mind the NSA affair we are asking
whether the affair influences our Internet behavior or not? To answer this question we carried out a questionnaire
among TU Graz freshmen of 2013. This questionnaire belongs to an overall survey that has been started in 2007.


Seven Years of Survey

The Department for Social Learning (DSL) as part of the Information Technology Services (ITS) of TU Graz
services all e-learning activities at TU Graz. To keep up their services with progresses, changes, and trends in the
field of e-learning DSL is doing a long-term survey since 2007 (Nagler & Ebner, 2009) (Ebner & Nagler, 2010)
(Ebner et al, 2011) (Ebner et al, 2012). The survey takes a look at freshmen’s IT competencies, their technical
Originally published in: Ebner, M., Nagler, W. & Schön, M. (2014). Do You Mind NSA Affair?Does the Global Surveillance
Disclosure Impact Our Students?. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and
Telecommunications 2014 (pp. 2307-2312). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
surroundings, their e-learning habits at secondary school level as well as general Internet and detailed Web 2.0
usage. The survey constantly grows and has become a unique study about the changes of habits of young Austrian
students (compare: Oblinger, 2005; Conole et al, 2006; Schulmeister, 2010). To ensure a high sample of polled
students the questionnaire is done using a paper pencil form during an informative event for freshmen. In 2013 the
sample results in n=789; since 2007 the sample sums up to n=4994 (n
2007
=578, n
2008
=821, n
2009
=757, n
2010
=702,
n
2011
=632, n
2012
=715, and n
2013
=789).


Results and Findings of 2013 Survey

Which Trends Can Be Seen Towards Technological Equipment?

According to last year´s results (2012) we cannot affirm an ongoing trend to all subjects asked. Although there is
little fluctuation and stagnation (see figure 1) the major shift to mobile devices is still unbroken. The total number of
mobile devices did rise again (increase of 20%). We see that nearly 90% of all freshmen have a smartphone; classic
mobile phones have been cut back to less than 10% which is a reduction of about 70% within two years! The market
of smartphones is clearly dominated by Android systems (73%), followed by iOS which finally cracked the 20%
line. This trend to Apple devices cannot be transferred to other Apple devices. There is only little increase in iPads,
scratching 10%. Other smartphone systems (Symbian 1%, Windows 4%) still can be neglected. The most significant
result according to devices refers to a tripling of e-book readers. They reached remarkable 14% which is more than
the usage of classic mobile phones! This fact is of interest because e-readers have been predicted a big business in
German speaking countries since years. Right now we have a convincingly increase in e-readers and therefore we
can slightly confirm the supposed trend. Most of the results correspond to those of the current JIM-Study (2013, 8f).



Figure 1: Comparison of devices used by first year’s students at TU Graz between 2007 and 2013;
The selection “Other mobile” of 2010 includes the selections “M: Symbian” and “M: Windows”

Which Trends Can Be Seen Towards Communication Behavior?

The results according to communicational behaviour of this year´s (2013) freshmen differ only very little in
comparison to last year (2012). There are weak increases of Google+ and Twitter which are not significant. All in all
we can state a slight total rise of communication which yet did not reach the maximum of 2011. For further results
and details please compare (Ebner et al, 2012).

Originally published in: Ebner, M., Nagler, W. & Schön, M. (2014). Do You Mind NSA Affair?Does the Global Surveillance
Disclosure Impact Our Students?. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and
Telecommunications 2014 (pp. 2307-2312). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Which Trends Can Be Seen Towards Internet Access at Study Home?

According to the Internet access at student´s home we can confirm the long term ongoing trend of an increase of
mobile accesses. Although the clearly rise of modem access during the last years seems to be stopped, the number of
those students having multiple accesses did not go down too (close to 7%). The deviations to last year (2012) are
very small, but correspond to the rise of multiple and mobile devices (compare figure 1). This can also be seen in the
very constant spread of ADSL access, which is not be influenced by other options. For a majority of students ADSL
still is the important internet access that is being supplemented rather by mobile access (23%) than by a modem
(10%). That means that the number of those using a modem as their own Internet access is larger than the one using
only mobile ways for Internet access. Those who use a modem and a mobile option but do not have ADSL is about
4%, less than the number of students having all three ways of accesses (about 7%).

Which Trends Can Be Seen Towards the Usage of E-learning Platforms at Secondary School Level?

The usage of e-learning platforms and IT in general at secondary school level similars to the previous topics: there is
a consolidation of last year´s (2012) results and trends. This is remarkable due to the fact that the former Austrian
“Federal Ministry for Education, Arts, and Culture” (bm:ukk) has recommended the use of Moodle as a Learning
Management System (LMS) at secondary school level since 2005
1
. A brochure of the bm:ukk stated in 2010 that
80% of Austrian federal schools and 18% of compulsory schools use a LMS
2
. The fact that there is only a little but
steady rise of “often” usage of LMS may lead to the conclusion that LMS have been established at schools but are
little used. Nevertheless, a rarely usage of LMS has doubled within the last four to five years at a simultaneous
increase of an often and daily usage. The usage of office software (word processing software and similar) can be
assumed at secondary schools as well as the usage of computers for learning efforts in general. LMS seem to be used
as possibilities for distribution of learning materials if you compare the results for “Moodle” and “Up/Download
School”. Besides Moodle there is no other LMS of major interest. And finally, the Web still remains a learning
scenario only for a few.

Which Trends Can Be Seen Towards Web 2.0 Activities According to General Usage and for Learning?

The following part of the survey covers the trends towards Web 2.0 knowledge and activities. For easier wording the
items asked will be uniformly called “application”, although there are differences in their technological nature. We
wanted to know three facts about the student’s behavior: they had to state how intensively they use an application in
general and for learning efforts as well as whether they use it actively (in the meaning of editing) or not. They could
choose between the categories “no use”, “rarely”, “often”, and “daily” for each, general usage and learning efforts.
Besides that there is the category “unknown” in case the application is not known. Figure 2 shows the results. Due to
the fact that three facts have been asked for each application the result´s percentage may go beyond 100%. The
results for category “active” according to the application “Facebook” leads to the assumption that this category is
misinterpreted by the polled students. It cannot be true that only 10% of all Facebook users use it actively in the
meaning of editing. For next year´s study we will redesign this part of the survey to avoid such misunderstandings.
Therefore the category “active” will not be paid further attention in this paper. As a good example to read figure 2
correctly we can pick “Skype”: Skype is very well known; only a very few do not know it or have not checked it.
The number of those knowing Skype but not using it generally (“no use”) is rather small (about 20%). It is more
likely that Skype is used private (75%) than for learning purposes (45%; 3% daily). Only office applications and
Wikipedia are used more often for learning than for private efforts, above all text-processing programs (17% more
than private use) and spreadsheet programs (8% more than private use). Besides that there are a couple of
applications that are well used for learning efforts. So all in all we have an increase of 29% compared to last year´s
(2012) often and daily usage for learning efforts. When we take a closer look to that high increase we find out that it
is caused to half by a growth of Dropbox usage! Compared to last year (2012) Dropbox jumped from 22% to 36%
according to “learn often and daily”. This is close to five times more than in 2011 (8%). The private use (“often and
daily”) even gained 42% (compared to 28% in 2012).


1
http://www.bildung.at/files/downloads/bildung_at_broschuere_6.pdf [December 2013]
2
http://www.edumoodle.at/moodle/mod/page/view.php?id=7716 [December 2013]
Originally published in: Ebner, M., Nagler, W. & Schön, M. (2014). Do You Mind NSA Affair?Does the Global Surveillance
Disclosure Impact Our Students?. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and
Telecommunications 2014 (pp. 2307-2312). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.


Figure 2: Usage of Web2.0 and Internet offers of first year’s students at TU Graz in 2013

The rise of Dropbox is interesting from many respects: Dropbox can be mentioned as an example of a typical cloud
application. Is there a generally increase of cloud-applications? According to this paper´s research question the
increase of cloud applications must be compared to the influence caused by global surveillance disclosure. But first,
to answer the questions according a generally growth of cloud-applications we picked out cloud associated
applications as well as those of obvious social or collaborative character. Figure 3 displays the results over three
years of survey (2011 to 2013) for the categories “often and daily learning” usage for cloud and social applications.



Figure 3: Comparison of “often and daily learn” use of cloud and social applications over the years 2011 to 2013

We can easily see the outstanding increase of Dropbox. For the private use the increase of cloud and social
applications is even stronger (not shown in figure 3). For the general usage not only Dropbox and calendar but also
Google+, Google Drive, and Twitter as well as Wikis cause that increase. All in all, we can state an increase of
about 45% of such applications within the last three years.

Originally published in: Ebner, M., Nagler, W. & Schön, M. (2014). Do You Mind NSA Affair?Does the Global Surveillance
Disclosure Impact Our Students?. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and
Telecommunications 2014 (pp. 2307-2312). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Special Focus on NSA Affair Affecting Freshmen Habits

The central research question of this year´s freshmen questionnaire focuses possible change of Internet-habits due to
global surveillance disclosure triggered by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden who uncovered secret details about
his former employer NSA in June 2013. Though the topic on Internet surveillance and security is neither new nor
neglected in general it thereby reached another climax that continues today in new dimensions. But did all those
disclosures of 2013 have effective impacts on our daily life? Did we really change the way we deal with the Internet
every day or is there in any case no other possibility? In that context we concentrated this year´s special focus on
two questions: Is there a change of Internet-habits? If so, of which kind is this change? Is this documented change of
habits being reflected by the “Web 2.0” activities according to general usage and for learning”-subject? Therefore
we asked the students directly whether global surveillance disclosure changed their Internet user behavior or not and
requested to describe the way they changed it. Afterwards we compared their answers on these questions with the
named subject to qualify the feedback. The results are inconsistent. The question on change of habits resulted in 207
answers given. This is about a quarter of all polled students. The most often answers given deal with general
statements of change such as more carefulness and awareness with private data published on the Internet. About
20% of the answers given addressed concrete changes such as “started to use TOR”. TOR is a non-profit project that
offers a technology that bounces internet users’ and websites’ traffic through relays making it difficult to identify the
source of an information. Those who, like the NSA are monitoring the Internet as a whole, certainly have that
opportunity. Other reported changes are “stopped using Facebook, Google, Skype”, or “using VPN for Internet
access”. Other focused on encoding methods to face the problem. A very few stated aspects of desperation or
resignation. In order to find out characteristics of those students who did answer to that question of disclosure-
impact we looked for significant variables correlating with the question. Table 1 shows the results as a Pearson
correlations matrix. “NSA” stands for the question of disclosure-impact. A minus value for variable “Female” means
“male”, a minus value for “Age” means “old”. We see that there is a strong correlation between NSA and Linux
users (value 0.158 with level of significance < 0.01). Linux users themselves most likely are older male users. This
is quite unsurprisingly because Linux users are more likely technological interested people since Linux is an
operating system that needs some basic technological skills compared to Windows or Apple systems. Therefore an
“increased attention” among Linux users on technology-affine topics seems to be reasonable. The inconsistence of
the results is revealed by the fact that half of the Linux users often or daily use Dropbox, a cloud based application.



Table 1: Correlation table according to NSA and significant variables

This contradictory aspect leads to the assumption that the experienced usage of applications strongly differs from
their potentials and risks even though they are known or supposed. The personal effort of using comfortable cloud
applications seems to be more obvious than the risks of worldwide organized personal Internet-surveillance. This
goes along with German studies targeting user behavior after NSA
3,4
. There is only little change to be stated; older
people (>20 years) seem to be more aware of their Internet usage. If we take a closer look at the cloud application

3
http://www.freelancerwissen.de/allgemein/nach-nsa-kaum-verhaltensanderung-18737.html [December 2013]
4
http://www.gfm-nachrichten.de/news/aktuelles/article/nutzerverhalten-kaum-von-nsa-skandal-beeinflusst.html [Dec. 2013]
NSA Female Age Linux
Pearson Correlation 1 -,035 ,023 ,158
**
Significance (2-sided) ,321 ,520 ,000
N 789 788 789 789
Pearson Correlation -,035 1 -,177
**
-,124
**
Significance (2-sided) ,321 ,000 ,000
N 788 788 788 788
Pearson Correlation ,023 -,177
**
1 ,089
*
Significance (2-sided) ,520 ,000 ,013
N 789 788 789 789
Pearson Correlation ,158
**
-,124
**
,089
*
1
Significance (2-sided) ,000 ,000 ,013
N 789 788 789 789
**. Correlation is significant on level 0,01 (2-sided)
*. Correlation is significant on level 0,05 (2-sided)
Correlations
NSA
Female
Age
Linux
Originally published in: Ebner, M., Nagler, W. & Schön, M. (2014). Do You Mind NSA Affair?Does the Global Surveillance
Disclosure Impact Our Students?. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and
Telecommunications 2014 (pp. 2307-2312). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Dropbox, we find out that there is a high affinity with the Apple user group stated in the PCA-HCA analysis. Due to
Apples iCloud service Apple users are more familiar to work with cloud applications. Furthermore we can state that
students coming from polytechnic institutes as well as students coming from Universities of Applied Sciences are
significantly more frequent using Dropbox instead of students from general secondary schools. Dropbox is most
likely not known by female students from AHS and Dropbox is significantly less likely to be used by typical
Windows users so far. Further, IT-students have significant more frequent usage of Dropbox, as well as the
members of the study “Electrical Engineering”. Anyway, the advantages especially of Dropbox but of cloud
applications in general become more and more evident and attractive for a broader group of freshmen.


Discussion and Conclusion

The annual questionnaire among freshmen of TU Graz that is carried out by DSL is a good indicator for trends and
changes according to Web 2.0 skills of young Austrian students. This year´s (2013) survey reflects the ongoing
increase of mobile devices in general. Not only smartphones but for the first time also e-readers are significantly
rising. Too, the Internet access at student´s home more and more turns mobile (apart from common ADSL). As it
was to be seen last year (2012) the boom of social networks is over or pauses at least. Apart from small fluctuations
there are no major changes at the social network “market” noticed. But there is an increase to be stated for cloud and
collaborative applications, above all Dropbox and calendars. This correlates with a small growth of Apple users
because of Apple´s pervasive cloud philosophy. Sharing and working together using the Internet has become a real
scenario for everyday study life. According to that, this year´s research question “Does the Global Surveillance
Disclosure Impact Our Students?” has shown a basic theoretical awareness of Internet security aspects among our
freshmen but no deep change of habits or even fear of using social and collaborative applications. Quite the reverse:
those who post critical statements on the research question more likely use cloud applications. Future research might
show a long-term effect of 2013´ disclosures on the Internet habits of our freshmen.


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